A historic, but also insufficient transparency amendment adopted by French Parliament

A watered-down amendment on transparency was adopted. If this amendment is historic, as it constitutes a first step in the implementation by France of the resolution on transparency adopted by the WHO Member States in May 2019, it shows by contrast the path that remains to be covered in the implementation of transparency.

 

Press statement, OTMeds, Wednesday November 25th 

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The French National Assembly adopted this evening in second reading, the bill on the social security budget for 2021 (PLFSS 2021), which makes new concessions to pharmaceutical companies and acts new austerity measures on public hospitals and barriers to the access to “emergency rooms”.


Drug shortages: tonight, the Parliament rejected an amendment to tackle drug shortages, the same amendment that was adopted by the Senate last week and which was adopted last year (as part of the PLFSS for 2020), but for which no implementation Decree had been issued by the Government.

Transparency amendment: A watered-down amendment on transparency was adopted. If this amendment is historic, as it constitutes a first step in the implementation by France of the resolution on transparency adopted by the WHO Member States in May 2019, it shows by contrast the path that remains to be covered in the implementation of transparency.

The adoption by parliamentarians of this watered-down transparency amendment, subamended from last year, asking pharmaceutical companies to disclose public funding received in the process of developing a medicine, only appears to be a small consolation prize, far from what is currently at stake for our healthcare system and not taking into account the everyday consequences of opacity in medicines policies.

It should be recalled that the amendment adopted tonight is a watered-down version of a previous amendment which was adopted last year, already resulting from a consensus between Olivier Véran, then rapporteur of the PLFSS for 2020 and MP Caroline Fiat. The amendment in question, in a more ambitious version, inspired by the work of our OTMeds and others, had been adopted by both chambers before being invalidated by the Constitutional Council [1] at the end of December 2019. 

Since, the Government, including the new Minister of health Olivier Véran, could and should have moved forward in implementing transparency by decree. But they refused to do so, refusing to answer questions to MPs, regularly since January 2020. This resulted in France losing a precious year in the implementation of the transparency resolution.

Although, this amendment represents a step forward, notable (that we acknowledged last year), it should not hide all the essential amendments that have meanwhile been rejected and that were asking to shed light on the origin of the active pharmaceutical ingredients, raw material, prices, margins of intermediaries, real costs of production, patents, and all financing clinical trials, whether private or public, French or not, or from charity.

Given the year that was lost to implement transparency in France, coupled with the health crisis we are going through, we would have hoped that the Government and Members of Parliament would have had established transparency in the whole chain of medicines. 

Besides, we note that, what France has been failing to do since May 2019, our Italian neighbors have succeeded in putting it in place, by decree, in a much more coherent and ambitious manner.

Despite COVID-19, despite the context of the global health crisis, despite the drug shortages and stock-outs, despite the medicines prices which have exploded for several years now, despite the catastrophic situation in our hospitals, the majority in parliament and the Government ratify a text representing a real regression for our social rights and for access to health, and comprising only little progress.

Read the press statement in French
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[1] We should also recall that the Government had opposed the amendment last year in the first reading of the bill, which had led the Assembly to reject it, and to adopt it only on second reading following pressure from civil society and certain parliamentarians, which eventually led the Constitutional Council to invalidate it.

 

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